Attention and signal-to-noise in neural circuits

Farran Briggs

Department of Physiology, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College

There are two questions I'm particularly interested in addressing: 1) how does the brain overcome signal redundancy resulting from anatomically divergent connections; and 2) how does attention change the activity of neurons in the brain. My results suggest that the cellular mechanisms by which attention alters neuronal activity may actually also help reduce signal redundancy in specific anatomical circuits that have high divergence (thalamocortical circuits). I will detail our experimental methods for identifying and recording from connected neurons participating in thalamocortical circuits in awake-behaving animals performing an attention task. I will then describe our results which indicate that attention increases the efficacy of neural communication and also increases signal-to-noise in these circuits. Interestingly, the manner by which attention increases signal-to-noise may also help overcome signal redundancy in highly divergent thalamocortical networks.

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